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Author: Fred Wilson

Think Project Management is boring? Here’s how it doesn’t have to be

The role of a project manager is no less than critical for any industry and for any organization – big or small.

Some of the traits this role requires in depth insight to technicalities, team building and management skills, discipline and effective time management.

Although many responsibilities fall under the umbrella of project management, the project manager is chiefly responsible for two things: to get a quality product delivered on time and to keep the team in sync while working towards success. While this role juggles between technical requirements to provide the customer with a satisfactory result, it has to deal with the human aspect by steering the team clear of politics, bias and uncertainty towards integrity, collaboration and confidence.

To many, this role may embody a serious persona that embodies an “all work, no play” attitude –eyes set on optimising the project at hand with little or no time for anything else. However, project management does not have to be dry and stressful. There are many ways to make work fun, interesting and create a surrounding where teams look forward to coming every day.

Here are three ways you can enjoy being a project manager without compromising on quality of project and efficiency of your team. Let’s begin.

Give autonomy to your team

Autonomy means the space and discretion to carry out a responsibility. By giving your team the freedom to complete activities on their own, you can instil a sense of ownership and encourage innovation. This will not only help you in getting better work performance on the project but teams also show innovative ways of achieving goals faster without the need to micromanage them.

According to Joan F. Cheverie, manager of professional development programs at the higher education and IT non-profit EDUCAUSE, autonomy is the antithesis of micromanagement and it may be the best way to ensure your employees are happy at work. [2]

A 2013 Workplace Survey by Harvard Business Review shows that the choice and autonomy not only keep employees happy, but also motivate and boost performance. They are also more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. [3]

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Make it cooler with technology

Who doesn’t like cool apps and gadgets? It’s downright delighting when a new app helps you identify pending issues in a project in half the time or that gives you the power to manage multiple teams without going back and forth between software tools.

Did you know that a survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit finds that employees that believe their workplace effectively makes use of mobile technology have more satisfaction, creativity well as show more productivity at work.

As a project manager, you constantly have to identify issues and come up with possible solutions or better yet, identify risks beforehand and have back up plans devised. Using a tool to structure your tasks and projects, helping your team collaborate better and that can give you more control on your project timeline can save you a lot of time and money. It definitely takes the stress out and lets you enjoy the creative aspects of the project taking care of the monotonous and repetitive activities.

Get more involved

Although project management comprises managing projects and teams, however, as a project manager, you can feel more connected by actively getting involved in team tasks and activities. This does not mean you have to micromanage your team. However, you can do a lot more by working on small tasks with your team such as attending the daily scrum, holding informative sessions on how to present projects better or simply by testing out the software module yourself via the newly purchased QA tool with the rest of the team.

Would you believe that about one in three projects fail because of a lack of involvement from senior management?

Divan Dave is the CEO of OmniMD, a leading healthcare IT company. According to Dave, a good project manager stays aware and alert about potential problems. He recommends that a project manager should hold frequent status meetings with team members. This ensures that the tasks and objectives are met on time, the issues that are being faced and ways to solve them and also, discuss if any of the activities in the project plan needs to be revisited.

Your involvement in the project’s workflow on different levels diminishes the chances of feeling disconnected and you can look forward to new accomplishments in each team. These little achievements can help you go a long way and the collaboration with your team can help keep things light and stress free.

Use Colours!

You don’t have to settle for dry and monotonous documentation and presentations. Instead, give your workplace a boost of energy with vibrant colours. From your user stories to presentations in the meeting room, give it a fizz of creativity.

Use coloured markers, post-its, stickers and props to design and plan a project. Colour code tasks by priority.

What is Agile Iterative Approach and where is it used?

To keep up with the market demand, the fast-evolving scenarios of the digital business have placed mounting pressure on CIOs, to deliver equally fast software development.

According to Gartner, growing number of IT organizations are opting for Agile development to speed up project deliveries and illustrate business value.

The 12th Annual State of Agile report found that one of the top five reported reasons for adopting Agile methodologies, was accelerated software delivery, increasing to 75% in 2018. Whereas Iterative Planning, with an 88% increase, was the second most employed Agile Technique in 2018.

What Is Agile Iterative Development?

Agile methods of software development are most commonly described as iterative and incremental development. Iterative strategy is the cornerstone of Agile practices, most prominent of which are SCRUM, DSDM and FDD. The general idea is to split the development of the software into sequences of repeated cycles (iterations). Each iteration is issued a fixed-length of time known as a timebox. A single timebox typically lasts 2-4 weeks. [1]

The Agile Iterative Model is perhaps best explained by Craig Larman in his book Agile and Iterative Development – A Manager’s Guide.[2] Larman explains that the model functions on an ADTC Wheel (Analysis, Design, Code, Test). This is to say that each iteration cycle incorporates the Analysis of the plan, the Design, its Code and simultaneously the Test. The ADTC wheel is more technically referred to as the PDCA (Plan, Design, Check, Adjust) cycle. The agile team implements the PDCA cycle on each iteration separately in the following manner:

P (Plan) – Iteration Planning. In this event, the team collaborates to discuss the objectives for the next iteration. It also summarizes the work done and determines the team backlog required for the next iteration.

D (Design) – Iteration Execution. This is the ‘do’ step where the development of the software, its design and coding takes place. If it’s a second or third iteration, then functionality testing is also conducted. The team collects user stories and prepares for the next step, that is Iteration Review.

C (Check) – Iteration Review. Also known as the ‘check’ step, Iteration Review is carried out with the Product Owner. The team shows the tested deliverable to the Product Owner, who then reviews the completed work and ascertains whether all criteria have been met.

A (Adjust) – Iteration Retrospect. In this event, the team evaluates the entire process of the iteration from the first step. It essentially works on any improvements that are gathered in previous iterations. New problems are identified along with their causes. Before the team starts the next cycle again, team backlog is refined for future reference. [3]

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The iterations are repeated for optimizations and improvisations and, the lessons learned from previous cycles are applied in the next cycle. Until a fully functional software is ready to hit the market.

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Benefits of Agile Iterative development

Agile Iterative development was created as a more flexible alternative to the otherwise traditionally rigid method of Waterfall. 

The waterfall method is a linear approach that proceeds sequentially from one phase to next, without allowing the development to return back to the previous step. Goes without saying, the waterfall method causes impending repercussions, that include but are not limited to: increased development costs, prolonged software delivery and additional resource input. [4]

Sudhakar Gorti, CIO for Environmental Data Resources agrees, “One of the major benefits of agile over waterfall is that you see a deliverable on an iterative basis and the Product Owner can decide to make changes to the product backlog”.

Customer Involvement – Agile Iterative development encourages user contribution. After each iterative cycle, customer feedback is obtained, and the product is then subjected to necessary changes based on that feedback. This aspect brings adaptability into the project’s framework.

Favors Evolution – The planning in agile iterative development process is a continuous feat, that allows space for evolving ideas, instead of an extensive planning that only precedes execution and testing in waterfall.

Risk Assessment – Agile iteration allows risk identification and mitigation early on in the development to avoid speed bumps later down the timeline.

Rapid Delivery – The work is divided into small cycles, allowing team members to dedicate their focus and deliver on time. Moreover, testing is conducted simultaneous to coding and design in every iteration, which greatly reduces the time needed to achieve completion. [5]

Where is Agile Iterative Development Employed?

Agile Iterative approach is best suited for projects or businesses that are part of an ever-evolving scope. Projects that do not have a defined set of requirements intended for a defined set of time. For such cases, Agile iterative approach helps minimize the cost and resources needed each time an unforeseen change occurs. [6]

nTask, a new, smarter task management software was created using SCRUM methodology. SCRUM enables independent team work using the ADCT wheel, for which various nTask teams worked collaboratively in two-week sprints (iterations). Since the scope of nTask is continuously evolving, and additions are made on a weekly basis, the iterative approach enables the nTask development to switch back and forth for optimizations.

Brad Murphy, CEO of Agile consultancy Gear Stream, believes that Agile Iterative approach is now extensively serviceable in zones other than software development.

He explains how Digital Marketing can benefit from the iterative approach by using the element of frequent delivery to collect customer feedback. Fastly solicited feedback can directly aid in improving subsequent iterations to attract larger traffic. [7]

According to the investigations of The Deloitte Center for Government Insights, 80% of major federal IT projects termed themselves to be “agile iterative” in 2017. One reason for this rise was easily accounted by the reduction in time taken to complete a project in harmony with the total cost of the project. [8]

Another report from Deloitte in 2015 reveals banks like Barclays have also begun utilizing iterative approaches such as SCRUM on more than 20% of their internal audits. Barclays conceded to benefiting from SCRUM in areas such as risk management and planning.

Agile I.A is not limited to IT organizations and financial firms only. Walmart, one of the world’s largest retailer also employs the use of Agile I.A for internal audits. One of their many successes post-agile induction included time saving in comparison to traditional audit approach. [9]

Ricky Barr, managing director Internal Audit, United Airlines, sums his experience of employing Deloitte’s Agile Internal Audit as “a faster audit-cycle-time via time-boxed iterations”.

Up until 8 years ago, many corporations such as Gartner’s vast majority of clients still used traditional waterfall methods for application development. But with demonstrable benefits of Agile over the years, that ranged from increased business value to strong organizational impact, the Agile community has expanded from start-ups to Global brands like that of IBM and Cisco.